Schleiermacher’s “Absolute Feeling Of Dependence,” And Its Effects On His Doctrine Of God -- By: F. H. Foster

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 040:159 (Jul 1883)
Article: Schleiermacher’s “Absolute Feeling Of Dependence,” And Its Effects On His Doctrine Of God
Author: F. H. Foster


Schleiermacher’s “Absolute Feeling Of Dependence,” And Its Effects On His Doctrine Of God

Rev. F. H. Foster

Great men live and work after they are dead. An earnest thinker does not lose his influence when he leaves this earth, but often accomplishes more by his writings than by his life. He may be forgotten for a time, but if really great he will be recalled to the memory of men. His own people may know him no more, but he will have spiritual children in foreign lands and other ages.

Such is to some extent the case with that great man whose name stands at the head of this article. He had a great and burning purpose, which was, in the words of Zeller,1 “to establish an eternal peace between living Christian faith, and free scientific investigation working independently for itself, so that the former may not hinder the latter, and the latter not exclude the former.” Practically he lives today in the revival of religion in Germany consequent upon his efforts. As a scientific theologian he lives too, and has come recently to have a wide influence in our own land. He lives and will live in the power of that great truth, not first presented, but first thoroughly wrought out and made the leading idea of a system of doctrine by him, viz. that Christian truth is a perfect sphere underived from, and not tributary to, any other sphere of thought. The peace he sought, was to be established by the recognition of the fact that religion and science were once and forever independent the one of the other.

In this effort he did not stand alone, but was, as Zeller says again, only “the most important among those who for more than a century” had had similar aims.

The first of these to consider the subject from the philosophical point of view was Immanuel Kant. Having destroyed, as he supposed, by an unsparing, but not malevolent, criticism the pretences of the mind to know anything about God, or ontological questions in general, and thus annihilated the science of theology, he built up an edifice of faith upon those truths which the mind is compelled to presuppose in order to bring sense into the deliverances of our moral nature. If happiness belongs by congruity to virtue, then there must be a future life where happiness can be joined with virtue, as it is not in this, and a God who can secure their union. Thus Kant opened the way for the idea which Schleiermacher elaborated. He relegated science to the mind working under categories; he put religion in another realm, that of faith and of postulated propositions. Religion resting ultimately upon morals and the dategorical imperative, was as independent and supreme i...

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